Saturday night with PG Wodehouse
I read PG Wodehouse novels to laugh. I have never read them for practical or spiritual guidance. Nor did I Saturday night.
But as I reposed on my bed reading The Adventures of Sally, I recalled that an acquaintance from India, where Wodehouse is popular, had told me that a person can learn quite a bit reading him. As PG delivers his comical confections, he throws ideas like darts over his shoulder, and often hits a bull’s eye. Or so I thought when I found a woman telling Sally -
”He is a chump, you know. That's what I love about him. That and the way his ears wiggle when he gets excited. Chumps always make the best husbands. When you marry. Sally, grab a chump. Tap his forehead first, and if it rings solid, don't hesitate. All the unhappy marriages come from the husband having brains. What good are brains to a man? They only unsettle him."
There’s some truth there somewhere. Then there was this –
He braced himself with that painful air of effort which announces to the world that an Englishman is about to speak a language other than his own.
That would be American.
Sally is set in America, and the business of finding work or enduring an awful job is realistically described. Notwithstanding remarks about the chump, Wodehouse likes brains in a man and a woman.
But he’s too ethical and subtle to admire brains for their own sake. He wants his men and women to use their minds to become authentic people. It’s a wonderful ideal, even when tilted like a flag flying over a stricken field.
Wodehouse is happy when one of his heroes finds well-paid work that draws on his deepest affections, and meets a woman he can really love. He's equally generous to his heroines.
It’s a lovely trait in an author. I fell asleep feeling he really wanted the best for me, and every one of his readers.
More thoughts about PG and other British comic writers here.